Just two days after it was launched, a new app developed by the Taliban was removed from the Google Play Store. The app, “Pashto Afghan News - alemarah”, displayed official statements and videos of the group, and according to spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahed was part of their “advanced technological efforts to make more global audience.”
Mujahed has told Bloomberg that the reason the app was removed was because it suffered “technical issues”. Google delivered a similarly vague response regarding the removal stating, “While we don’t comment on specific apps, we can confirm that we remove apps from Google Play that violate our policies.”
The Telegraph was more precise in pointing out the real reason behind the removal, reporting that the app violated Google’s rules on hate speech. The rule states that Google won’t allow apps “that advocate against groups of people based on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”
It is possible however that it may have been removed due to other reasons. Among the app store’s other policies is the restriction of apps that involve “terrorist groups documenting their attacks”, as well as “apps that lack reasonable sensitivity towards or capitalize on a natural disaster, atrocity, conflict, death, or other tragic event.” However, there has been no confirmation that the Taliban app violated these terms.
Experts surmise that this may have been part of the Taliban’s efforts to compete with ISIS, which consistently use online platforms to spread their propaganda. Google has made it clear however that they will not support such operations. They recently began showing anti-ISIS ads and pre-moderating apps in an attempt to “catch policy offenders earlier in the process”. The Taliban may have other ideas though, as Mujahed has told Bloomberg that they will have their app back up soon.